As a child, my disability never factored into my self-concept. Reasons for this were not that I was unaffected by it or that I refused to admit it to myself; I simply didn’t make the connection between things like my many doctors appointments and my wheelchair, or my educational assistant accompanying me to classes and my special needs. As well until I was about twelve years old, none of my drawings included my wheelchair. My self-portraits typically showed me skipping or running along. This is how I saw the world around me and how I understood myself.
It wasn’t until adolescence that I began to recognize that there was more to the picture then I had previously thought. As qualities like athleticism rose in value and homogeneity of social groups became important, my challenges and differences from the majority confronted me. I wasn’t sure that I could measure up anymore so I retreated to a network of disabled friends whenever possible. There I derived solace from feeling equally capable again. Yet I felt awkward, as our relationships were based only on physical capability or rather the lack there of. My self-identity within the group was not at all related to my previous self-concept. When I realized this I became fearful that my wheelchair would be all that anyone saw and that the rest of my picture would fade away. In an effort to shed light on the rest of my self and preserve the identity I grew up with or at least gain respect from the masses, I refused to do anything that could fit-in with stereotypes of the disabled. The only thing wrong with this was that in doing so I discounted positive aspects of my disability such as accessible sports, like wheelchair basketball, as well as the ability to understand and advocate for minorities.
I am just now coming to understand that to be the most fulfilled is to embrace all aspects of your identity and I suggest that you do the same. Keep on rolling in the city and good luck finding a way to balance all that you are.